I am still trying to believe the opportunity that I got on June 16. The reclusive photographer, Bert Stern, was scheduled to attend the opening of his new exhibit "Jewels" in Toronto. Stern, 82, was set for his first visit to Canada to visit the Izzy Gallery where 34 of his photos are on display. A rare feat indeed for such a small intimate art gallery. I learned about Stern's appearance by reading this online article the day before and immediately made plans to attend.
Marilyn fans the world over have fawned over Stern's photographs that he took in July 1962 shortly before her death. Regardless of your view on whether he should have published photos that Marilyn herself had X'd out there is no denying his photographs are truly legendary. I am personally a big fan of this time period and Marilyn style and "The Complete Last Sitting" is one of my favourite books.
How is this for dedication - It took me 3 hours to get there with traffic and I stayed for 1 hour and immediately had to turn around and go another 2 hours to get home :) I was praying the whole time that Stern would not cancel and that he would be civil enough to sign a book for me. It was an experience in itself lugging my copy of The Complete Last Sitting through the subway and walking 4 blocks to get to the gallery.
The Izzy Gallery in located in an area of Toronto known as Yorkville. I had never been there before and was really taken by all the interesting restaurants and shops. There was a doorman at the gallery and as soon as I came through the door was offered some wine. Stern had not arrived yet so I walked around the room and looked at the photographs.
There was media outside the gallery awaiting Stern's arrival. When the cameras started flashing I knew that he was really here. He came inside looked at his work along one of the walls and then sat in one of two chairs in the center of the room. I didn't see anyone else approaching him with a book to sign and was really worried as to how he'd react. I had a really bad experience with another Marilyn photog who refused to sign something so I was a little gun shy as it was. I was thrilled when a guy appeared with his own copy and broke the ice first. I could see Stern sign his book so I was up next.
I stood across from his chair for awhile and watched as the media came into the gallery. The local news was interviewing a young woman who appeared to be with Stern (not sure if it was his wife as I never saw the footage on TV). I noticed Jeanne Becker from Fashion TV crouch down in front of Stern and attempt to get an interview from him. She tried for some time but in the end gave up.
Riding back on the subway I kept looking at the invitation to the event and then the inscription in my book and realized just how amazing the night had been and how lucky I was.
If you live in the Toronto area you can visit Izzy Gallery and see Stern's latest work until July 9, 2011.
Here is a photo I took of Stern and a scan of the invitation to the event: